Britain warned to ramp up electric car subsidies or lose green race

The Government offers grants up to £3,500, but some peer countries go much further

Credit: The Telegraph

The UK must raise subsidies for electric cars or risk lagging behind continental Europe when it comes to widespread adoption of the vehicles, experts have warned.

Generous subsidies are required to offset the cost of purchasing an electric car, which is typically higher than buying a petrol equivalent.

“Without financial support to get the market going, the transformation will not happen as fast, and perhaps not at all,” said Christian Brand, the co-director of the UK Energy Research Centre.

The Government currently offers a grant of 35pc of the price of an electric car up to a maximum of £3,500, but experts say this is unlikely to be enough to keep up with higher rates of electric car usage on the continent.

“The government should consider introducing targeted incentives for low income households such as interest free loans and higher upfront rebates,” said Luke Murphy of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Caterina Brandmayr, the head of climate policy at the Green Alliance, said subsidies “will be vital to promote rapid uptake” and called for them to be funded by higher taxes on petrol cars, as France has done.

Germany increased its electric car subsidies to a €9,000 (£8,053) discount earlier this year as part of a €130bn package. 

Norway has exempted electric vehicles from a 25pc VAT and offers electric car drivers free charging and free parking; 60pc of new cars sold in the country in September were electric vehicles, statistics released last month show.

“I do think in the UK we’ve been premature in cutting subsidies,” said Professor David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Birmingham University. “I’d like to see it put back up and it needs to be maintained through to about 2024. At that point battery costs will have fallen and electric cars will be on parity with petrol and diesel engine cars.”

Fiona Howarth, the chief executive of Octopus Electric Vehicles, said that “if the UK is serious about becoming Europe’s leading EV market, practical and financial incentives that bring us in line with the continent are a must.”

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